Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots was the queen of both Scotland (r. Obliged to flee Scotland, the queen was imprisoned for 19 years by Elizabeth I of England (r. 1558-1603 CE) and finally executed for treason on 8 February 1587 CE.

Brought up in France and then marrying the heir to the French throne, Mary's world was turned upside down when her husband Francis II died in 1560 CE one year into his reign. The queen returned to Scotland but her Catholic views clashed with Protestants there and two more husbands and murder plots further discredited her reign. Following her forced abdication by Scottish nobles, Mary fled to England where she plotted unsuccessfully to oust her cousin Elizabeth I of England.

Family Relations

Mary Stewart was born on 8 December 1542 CE in Linlithgow Palace near Edinburgh. She was the daughter of King James V of Scotland (r. 1513-1542 CE) and Mary of Guise (1515-1560 CE). When James V, died on 14 December 1542 CE with no surviving male heirs, Mary, only one week old at the time, became the queen of Scotland, the first queen to rule that country in her own right. Mary was crowned nine months later on 9 September 1543 CE in Stirling Castle. Mary of Guise acted as the new queen's regent.

Mary was sent to be educated at the court of Henry II of France.

Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE) had briefly considered marrying his son Edward to Mary to bring the two countries closer together but the Scottish Parliament refused the proposal, and in 1544 CE England and Scotland were at war again. Mary did have a distant claim to the throne of England as she was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor (1489-1541 CE), sister of Henry VIII of England. As it was, the old ties between France and Scotland came to the fore, and in 1548 CE Mary was sent to be educated at the court of Henry II of France (r. 1547-1549 CE).

Queen of France

At the French court Mary was looked after by her mother's relations and was treated like the queen she was. Mary was given a cultured education which included learning French, Latin, Spanish, and Italian. The young queen excelled at dancing and also became a Catholic which would have serious repercussions later in her life. It was in France that Mary changed the spelling of her family name from Stewart to the French form, Stuart.

On 24 April 1558 CE, Mary, then 15, married the 14-year-old Prince Francis, who the next year became King Francis II of France (r. The ceremony took place in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Another family change was to quarter the English royal arms with those of the French in a new emblem that signified Mary's claim to the English throne, now occupied by Henry VIII's daughter Elizabeth I of England. For many English Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate as they did not recognise her father's divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536 CE). For Catholic conspirators, Mary, the closest relative to the English queen, would be a good alternative to Protestant Elizabeth.

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Said to have been a beautiful & vivacious woman, Mary enlivened her residence at Holyrood House with hunting & dancing parties.

Unfortunately, Mary's marriage did not last long as Francis, never blessed with robust health, died in December 1560 CE. Following Francis' death and her mother's in June of the same year, Mary, then still only 18, decided to return to Scotland where she would continue to press her claim for the English throne. There was further friction between the two cousin-queens as Elizabeth had been outraged by the quartering of the royal arms business and she refused to guarantee Mary safe passage to her homeland. On her side, Mary would not recognise the 1560 CE Treaty of Edinburgh which had officially accepted Elizabeth's right to be the queen of England. Finally, Elizabeth refused to acknowledge Mary as her heir.

Return to Scotland

Catholic Mary was not welcomed in Scotland where the barons controlled government but were themselves still divided into two camps: Catholic and Protestant. The Protestants were winning the battle for Scots minds as Scotland was undergoing a sea-change in religion through the efforts of such figures as the Calvinist minister John Knox (c. 1514-1572 CE). Knox was an influential figure who founded the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and his views that a woman should not rule, especially one with the 'wrong' religion, were adopted by many others.

Despite the bias of the Protestant nobles, who called themselves the 'lords of the congregation', Mary was determined to rule her kingdom, and she visited many parts of it in person between 1562 and 1566 CE. The queen had a handsome income thanks to her French lands and she brought a touch of glamour. Said to have been a beautiful and vivacious woman, Mary enlivened her residence at Holyrood House with hunting and dancing parties.

The queen made an attempt to reconcile the religious divide in her country by forbidding the holding of the mass in public (she herself attended a private mass). Mary also recognised the Reformed Church. Still, suspicions remained and were exacerbated when Mary married her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (1545-1567 CE), a Protestant who now favoured the Catholic mass, on 29 July 1565 CE. From here on, things started to turn sour for the queen. First, Darnley led a group of nobles who murdered Mary's private secretary, the Italian David Rizzio (aka Riccio) on 9 March 1566 CE. Rizzio's 'crimes' were to have been Catholic and suspected of being rather too friendly with the queen, which piqued Darnley's jealousy. The Italian was dragged from the queen's presence and knifed 56 times in an adjoining chamber.

The queen's private life then entered a new disastrous phase. Darnley himself was murdered on 10 February 1567 CE, possibly with Mary's knowledge as the queen had not forgiven him for Rizzio's murder. The queen had had a son with Darnley, James Stuart, born on 19 June 1566 CE in Edinburgh Castle. As Elizabeth I still had not married or had children, James was now heir to the kingdoms of both Scotland and England.

The ringleader of the Darnley assassination plot was James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (c. 1535-1578 CE), who, on 10 February 1567 CE, had Darnley strangled and then blew him up along with Kirk O'Field House using barrels of gunpowder. Mary then married Bothwell on 15 May 1567 CE which fuelled suspicion that the queen had indeed been involved in the murder of Darnley. To add further scandal and intrigue, Bothwell had taken Mary to Dunbar Castle and then allegedly raped her (Mary may have been a willing partner in the escapade). They married after this strange incident but by now the Protestant Scottish barons, who were given material aid by Elizabeth I, had had enough of their 'French' Catholic queen and her dubious private life. The barons, led by James Douglas, Earl of Morton, defeated Mary and Bothwell on the battlefield in July 1567 CE east of Edinburgh without either army exchanging blows. It seemed the queen had lost her already limited support and her army evaporated. Mary was then imprisoned in a castle located on an island in Loch Leven. It was there she miscarried twins, Bothwell being the presumed father.

Mary was formally obliged to abdicate on 24 July 1567 CE in favour of her son who became James VI of Scotland (r. 1567-1625 CE). James was barely one year old and so, given a Protestant education, he could be easily manipulated by the barons who ruled in his name. Bothwell, meanwhile, fled to Orkney, the seat of his dukedom, and from there to Norway but died in madness and obscurity in a Danish dungeon in 1578 CE.

Escape to England

Fearing for her safety as the civil war raged on, Mary fled Scotland in May 1568 CE and sought sanctuary with her cousin Elizabeth in England. Mary's first attempt to escape Loch Leven Castle had involved her dressing as a washerwoman but she was given away by her aristocratic hands. A second attempt involving a rowing boat was successful. Not quite giving up on her kingdom, the queen made one more attempt to get back her throne by joining forces with supportive clans (the Campbells, Gordons, and Hamiltons). The regent, James Stewart, the Earl of Moray (l. 1531-1570 CE) defeated this force at the battle of Langside (13 May 1568 CE), and Mary fled south of the border.

The English queen was at a loss what to do with Mary who was, on the one side, a family relation and fellow monarch with divine rights but, on the other side, a serious threat to her throne. As in many other areas of policy, Elizabeth dithered and procrastinated, delaying the ultimate decision regarding Mary's fate by putting her under house arrest. To thwart possible coups, the former Queen of Scots was regularly moved to different country houses and kept under close observation. Unfortunately for Mary, this would result in almost 20 years of imprisonment during which she saw neither Scotland or her son ever again. The two queens never met either as Mary was moved from the Scottish border to Sheffield Castle, Tutbury Castle, and Fotheringhay Castle, amongst many others. Forbidden the presence of a Catholic priest, Mary got around the prohibition by having a priest disguise himself as an almoner.

Even in confinement, Mary was a danger to Elizabeth. The former Scottish queen had become the figurehead for Catholic-inspired plots to remove Elizabeth from her throne. In 1569 CE there was a rebellion in the north of England stirred up by the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, both staunch Catholics. The plotters took Durham and hoped to have Mary become queen and then marry Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Elizabeth responded emphatically by sending an army led by the Earl of Sussex which caused the rebel leaders to flee in panic; 900 of the rebels were rounded up and hanged. In 1570 CE the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth for heresy following her religious reforms (the Elizabethan Religious Settlement). As a consequence of the excommunication, all Catholics were now released from any allegiance to their queen.

Next came the 1571 CE Ridolfi plot (after the Florentine banker Roberto di Ridolfi). The conspiratorial Duke of Norfolk, who had been released from confinement after the 1569 CE failed coup, now plotted with Spain to mount an invasion of England and crown Mary queen. Norfolk was not second time lucky as the treachery was discovered when coded letters were deciphered. Norfolk was imprisoned again and then executed in 1572 CE. De Spes, the Spanish ambassador was kicked out of England. The English Parliament remained keen to secure Elizabeth's throne; already that body had twice formally asked Elizabeth to marry (1559 and 1563 CE). Now there was an additional threat to the dynasty in the form of Mary who had named Philip II of Spain (r. 1556-1598 CE) as her heir. The plots continued, too, with the Throckmorton Plot of 1584 CE which again saw a Spanish ambassador work with Mary to try and replace Elizabeth.

Trial & Execution

Sir Francis Walsingham (c. 1530-1590 CE), one of Elizabeth I's chief ministers and her spymaster, was determined to demonstrate Mary's treachery once and for all. Walsingham embroiled the former Scottish queen in yet another plot against her cousin, this time in a plan fronted by the nobleman Anthony Babington. Mary had sought to encourage Philip of Spain to invade England and murder Elizabeth. By employing double-agents and intercepting secret letters Walsingham was able to gather indisputable evidence of Mary's treacherous intentions. Mary was tried on 14 October 1586 CE, and despite protesting her innocence and denying the court's right to try a queen, she was condemned to death. Parliament had already twice asked Elizabeth to sign Mary's death warrant in November 1585 CE but the queen had hesitated again. Now, Elizabeth finally signed the warrant on 1 February 1587 CE but insisted she should be consulted before it was carried out. This latter condition was not met, and Mary was executed, aged 44, on 8 February 1587 CE in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire (now demolished). The former queen had worn a black dress and a red petticoat as a symbol of her Catholic faith; she was buried in Peterborough Cathedral.

Elizabeth raged against her ministers for executing Mary without her final word, but given her soft treatment of those involved, it seems likely she was really relieved that she had not given the dreadful order herself. Meanwhile, James VI of Scotland made a formal complaint to Elizabeth concerning the death of his mother but did no more than that. Given a handsome annual payoff and content enough to remain king and at peace with England, James bided his time. When Mary was executed, Philip of Spain had one more reason to attack Protestant England, which he did (unsuccessfully) with his Spanish Armada in the summer of 1588 CE.

Mary got the better of Elizabeth in one way, though, as when the English queen died in 1603 CE and left no heir, James VI of Scotland was invited to become king, James I of England (r. 1603-1625 CE). This was the end of the House of Tudor and the beginning of the House of Stuart in England. As a final touch, King James moved his mother's remains from Peterborough to a magnificent new tomb in Westminster Abbey.

Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Earl of Bothwell

The life of Mary, Queen of Scots has all the ingredients of a Hollywood thriller: a love triangle, treachery, rape and murder. Dr Saul David takes a closer look at the role of Mary's lover, the Earl of Bothwell, and the web of intrigue that surrounds this 16th-century murder mystery.


He was the second but eldest surviving son of Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, by his wife Lady Margaret Douglas which supported her claim to the English succession. Darnley's maternal grandparents were Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, and Lady Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England and widow of King James IV of Scotland.

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was born at Temple Newsam, Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, in 1545. However, this date is uncertain as his parents were not together in early 1545 and a letter of March 1566, from Mary Queen of Scots, indicates Darnley was then nineteen years old. Therefore, the date 1546 would seem probable. [5] A descendant of both James II of Scotland and Henry VII of England, Darnley had potential claims to both the Scottish and English thrones.

In 1545, his father, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, was found guilty of treason in Scotland for siding with the English in the War of the Rough Wooing, in opposing Mary of Guise and Regent Arran. The family's Scottish estates were forfeited [6] and his father went into exile in England for 22 years, returning to Scotland in 1564. The Countess of Lennox Margaret Douglas, his mother, had left Scotland in 1528. [7]

The young Henry was conscious of his status and inheritance. Well-versed in Latin and familiar with Gaelic, English and French, he received an education befitting his royal lineage, and he excelled in singing, lute playing, and dancing. [ citation needed ] The Scottish scholar John Elder was among his tutors. Elder advocated Anglo-Scottish union through the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and Prince Edward. His advice to Henry VIII in 1543, was termed the Advice of a Redshank. [8] Another schoolmaster to the young heir was Arthur Lallart, who would later be interrogated in London for having gone to Scotland in 1562. [9] Henry was said to be strong, athletic, skilled in horsemanship and weaponry, and passionate about hunting and hawking. His youthful character is captured somewhat in a letter of March 1554 to Mary I of England from Temple Newsam, where he writes about making a map, the Utopia Nova, and his wish that "every haire in my heade for to be a wourthy souldiour". [10]

There was a political dilemma in England arising from the dynastic ambition of the Lennoxes: Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, was third in line to the Scottish throne, and his wife Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, was a niece of Henry VIII, making her a potential successor to the English throne if Elizabeth should die. [11] As Roman Catholics, they posed a threat to English Protestants, [11] Although Elizabeth was bright, witty, and well-educated for her position, as a female she had to prove herself. As she was a Protestant, many Roman Catholics would have liked to see the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, take the throne. They regarded Elizabeth as illegitimate, her parents' marriage not having been recognised by the Catholic Church. Darnley, as a male descended from Henry VII, was also a contender for the English throne. All of these interrelationships made for complex intrigues, spying, strategising and manoeuvering for power at the various courts.

When Henry II of France died in July 1559, Lennox's brother John, 5th Sieur d'Aubigny, was elevated in the French court as kinsman of the new French queen, Mary, already Queen of Scots. Aubigny arranged for Darnley to be dispatched to the French court to congratulate Mary and Francis II of France on their accession and seek restoration for Lennox. Mary did not restore Lennox to his Scottish earldom, but she did give 1,000 crowns to Darnley and invited him to her coronation. [12] Lennox's plan was to appeal directly to the Queen of Scots via her ambassador, over the heads of Elizabeth and the Guise. The mission of Lennox's agent, one Nesbit, appears to have been a desperate one not only was Lennox willing to hand over Darnley and his brother Charles as hostages for his restoration, but he supplied pedigrees of Darnley, indicating his right to the inheritance of England and Scotland and the houses of Hamilton and Douglas. [13] Aubigny was also later accused of supporting Mary's title to the throne of England and hinting that even his nephew had a stronger claim than Elizabeth.

Lennox set Nesbit to watch Mary, Darnley and Darnley's tutor, John Elder. In 1559 Nicholas Throckmorton, the English ambassador in Paris, warned Elizabeth that Elder was "as dangerous for the matters of England as any he knew." [14] Lord Paget in March 1560 wrote of the 'well founded' fear that Catholics would raise Darnley to the throne on Elizabeth's death. [15]

Francis Yaxley was a Catholic spy discovered in 1562 whose activities led to the arrest of the Lennox family. He had been a clerk of the Signet and from 1549 was employed by William Cecil travelling in France. [16] Yaxley was employed by the Countess of Lennox. He placed Mabel Fortescue and other ladies as servants in the Lennox household at Settrington in November 1560. [17] His interrogation at the Tower of London in February 1562 revealed that he had obtained intelligence about the English Court from the Spanish ambassador, and the ambassador had entrusted him and Hugh Allen with messages and tokens for the Lennoxes and Darnley. Yaxley admitted that his missions were intended to arrange the marriage of the Queen of Scots with Darnley, that Darnley's religion guaranteed him greater success in his suit than the Earl of Arran, and that the countess had many friends in the north. [18] Although the Lennox threat never died out, Elizabeth did not convict the family of treason in 1562 after their arrest nor did she encourage efforts to annul the countess's claim to her throne. Perhaps Elizabeth feared that these investigations could also be directed at herself, or her inaction was intended to ensure the survival of the monarchy by not reducing the number of potential heirs. The Lennox family were released in February 1563, and within a few months, Darnley and his mother were conspicuous by their presence at Court and the favour they received there, although Elizabeth would not accommodate the earl at Court. [19]

Sarah Macauley notes three outcomes of the court's decision in the Lennox trial:

"Their elevation at Court was, as it turned out in 1563, a useful complication in the succession issue. First, it presented a public statement that the preferences of Parliament (the claim of Catherine Grey in the succession crisis) could not dictate her own policy. Secondly, favouring the Lennoxes could serve as some kind of appeasement of the English Roman Catholics, who, like the Spanish ambassador, might foresee Elizabeth naming Darnley as her successor . Such speculation would also distract them from favouring the more alarming claim of the Queen of Scots . Thirdly, and most significantly, the elevation of the Lennoxes presented an obstacle between the Queen of Scots and the English throne. Thus was Darnley's uniquely 'British' inheritance put to use at last . The subsequent release of Darnley into Scotland and the restoration of his father at the Scottish Court were part of this policy: the political disaster of the Darnley marriage as yet unforeseen." [20]

In September 1564, the Scottish Parliament restored Matthew Stewart's rights and titles as Earl of Lennox, and listened to a lengthy speech from the Queen's secretary William Maitland, who offered

"[I]t may be affirmid Scotland in na manis age that presentlie levis wes in gritter tranquillitie." [21]

On 3 February 1565, Darnley left London and by 12 February, he was in Edinburgh. On 17 February, he presented himself to Mary at Wemyss Castle in Fife. [23] James Melville of Halhill reported that "Her Majesty took well with him, and said that he was the lustiest and best proportioned long man that she had seen." [24] After a brief visit to his father at Dunkeld, Darnley returned with Mary and the court to Holyrood on 24 February. The next day, he heard John Knox preach, and he danced a galliard with Mary at night. [25] From then on, he was constantly in Mary's company. [2]

Darnley was his wife's half-first cousin through two different marriages of their grandmother, Margaret Tudor, putting both Mary and Darnley high in the line of succession for the English throne. Darnley was also a descendant of a daughter of James II of Scotland, and so also in line for the throne of Scotland.

As a preliminary to the marriage, Darnley was made Lord of Ardmanoch and Earl of Ross at Stirling Castle on 15 May 1565. [26] An entourage of 15 men were made knights, including one of Mary's half brothers, Robert Stewart of Strathdon, Robert Drummond of Carnock, James Stewart of Doune Castle, and William Murray of Tullibardine. [27] In England, a concerned Privy council debated the perils of the intended marriage on 4 June 1565. One of their resolutions was to relax the displeasure shown to Lady Catherine Grey, another rival to Mary Stuart for the English throne. [28] Mary sent John Hay, Commendator of Balmerino, to speak to Elizabeth Elizabeth demanded Darnley's return, and gave John Hay plainly to understand her small satisfaction. [29]

On 22 July, Darnley was made Duke of Albany in Holyrood Abbey, and the banns of marriage were called in the parish of Canongate. A proclamation was made at the Cross of Edinburgh on 28 July that government would be in the joint names of the king and queen of Scots, thus giving Darnley equality with, and precedence over, Mary. This was confirmed in the circulation of a silver ryal in the names of Henry and Mary. [30] [31]

On 29 July 1565, the marriage took place by Roman Catholic rites in Mary's private chapel at Holyrood, but Darnley (whose religious beliefs were unfixed – he was raised as a Catholic, but was later influenced by Protestantism) [32] refused to accompany Mary to the nuptial Mass after the wedding itself. [2]

Soon after Mary married Darnley, she became aware of his vain, arrogant and unreliable qualities, which threatened the wellbeing of the state. Darnley was unpopular with the other nobles and had a violent streak, aggravated by his drinking. [3] Mary refused to grant Darnley the Crown Matrimonial, which would have made him the successor to the throne if she died childless. [32] By August 1565, less than a month after the marriage, William Cecil heard that Darnley's insolence had driven Lennox from the Scottish court. Mary soon became pregnant.

Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio, was stabbed 56 times on 9 March 1566 by Darnley and his confederates, Protestant Scottish nobles, in the presence of the queen, who was six months pregnant. According to English diplomats Thomas Randolph and the Earl of Bedford, the murder of Rizzio (who was rumoured to be the father of Mary's unborn child) was part of Darnley's bid to force Mary to cede the Crown Matrimonial. Darnley also made a bargain with his allies to advance his claim to the Crown Matrimonial in the Parliament of Scotland in return for restoring their lands and titles. [33]

When the Spanish Ambassador in Paris heard this news, the headlines were that Darnley "had murdered his wife, admitted the exiled heretics, and seized the kingdom." However, on 20 March, Darnley posted a declaration denying all knowledge of or complicity in the Rizzio murder. Mary no longer trusted her husband, and he was disgraced by the kingdom. On 27 March, the Earl of Morton and Lord Ruthven, who were both present at Rizzio's murder and had fled to England, wrote to Cecil claiming that Darnley had initiated the murder plot and recruited them, because of his "heich quarrel" and "deadly hatred" of Rizzio. [34]

Mary and Darnley's son James (the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England) was born on 19 June 1566 at Edinburgh Castle. [36] [37]

Following the birth of James, the succession was more secure, but Darnley and Mary's marriage continued to struggle, despite a hunting trip together to Cramalt Tower in the Ettrick Forest in August 1566. [38] Darnley alienated many who would otherwise have been his supporters through his erratic behavior. His insistence that he be awarded the Crown Matrimonial was still a source of marital frustration. [39]

Their son was baptised Charles James on 17 December 1566 in a Catholic ceremony held at Stirling Castle. [38] His godparents were Charles IX of France, [40] Elizabeth I of England [41] and Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy. [40] Mary refused to let the Archbishop of St Andrews, whom she referred to as "a pocky priest", spit in the child's mouth, as was then the custom. [3] In the entertainment, devised by Frenchman Bastian Pagez, men danced dressed as satyrs and sporting tails the English guests took offence, thinking the satyrs "done against them". [3] The French ambassador described how Darnley was lodged in the castle but stayed in his rooms, and sensing he was out of favour, the ambassador refused to meet with him. [42]

Darnley was murdered eight months after James' birth. On the night of 9–10 February 1567, his body and that of his valet were discovered in the orchard of Kirk o' Field, in Edinburgh, where they had been staying. [43]

During the weeks leading up to his death, Darnley was recovering from a bout of smallpox (or, it has been speculated, syphilis). He was described as having deformed pocks upon his face and body. He stayed with his family in Glasgow, until Mary brought him to recuperate at Old Provost's lodging at Kirk o' Field, a two-story house within the church quadrangle, a short walk from Holyrood, with the intention of incorporating him into the court again. [44] Darnley stayed at Kirk o' Field while Mary attended the wedding of Bastian Pagez, one of her closest servants, at Holyrood. Around 2 A.M. on the night of 9–10 February 1567, while Mary was away, two explosions rocked the foundation of Kirk o' Field. These explosions were later attributed to two barrels of gunpowder that had been placed in the small room under Darnley's sleeping quarters. Darnley's body and the body of his valet William Taylor were found outside, surrounded by a cloak, a dagger, a chair, and a coat. Darnley was dressed only in his nightshirt, suggesting he had fled in some haste from his bedchamber.

Darnley was apparently smothered. [45] There were no visible marks of strangulation or violence on the body. [46] A post-mortem revealed internal injuries, thought to have been caused by the explosion. John Knox claimed the surgeons who examined the body were lying, and that Darnley had been strangled, but all the sources agree there were no marks on the body and there was no reason for the surgeons to lie as Darnley was murdered either way. [47]

Suspicion quickly fell on the Earl of Bothwell and his supporters, notably Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas, whose shoes were found at the scene, and on Mary herself. Bothwell had long been suspected of having designs on the throne, and his close relationship with the queen gave rise to rumours they were sexually intimate. This was viewed as a motive for Bothwell to have Darnley murdered, with help from some of the nobility and seemingly with royal approval. Mary had been looking at options for removing Darnley, and had discussed ideas at Craigmillar Castle in November 1566, though her ideas were for divorce. The problem was the risk of making her son illegitimate. [48]

Soon after Darnley's death, Bothwell and Mary left Edinburgh together. There are two points of view about the circumstances: in the first, Bothwell kidnapped the queen, took her to Dunbar Castle, and raped her. In the second, Mary was a willing participant in the kidnapping, and the story of rape was a fabrication, so her honour and reputation were not ruined by her marriage to a man widely suspected of murder. Mary later miscarried twins by Bothwell while a prisoner at Lochleven Castle. [49]

A soldier under the pay of Bothwell, Captain William Blackadder of the Clan Blackadder, was one of the first non-participant to happen upon the scene, and for that reason was treated as a suspect. He was convicted and executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered before each of his limbs was nailed to the gates of a different Scottish town. [50] [51] [ better source needed ]

Bothwell was put on trial in Edinburgh and found not guilty. Suspicions that Mary colluded with conspirators in her husband's death or that she took no action to prevent his death led to the loss of her supporters and the loss of the Scottish crown. Bothwell escaped to Shetland and Norway. Mary was captured by her enemies at the battle of Carberry Hill. In 1568 Mary's involvement in the murder was discussed in England in conferences at York and Westminster which ended with no definitive findings. The Casket letters were produced as evidence against her, alleged to have been written by Mary, they seemed to indicate her support for the killing. [52] The letters were purportedly found by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, in Edinburgh in a silver box engraved with an "F" (for Francis II), along with others documents, including the Mary-Bothwell marriage certificate. [53] Before Morton's execution in 1581, he admitted having knowledge of the murder plot, and that Bothwell and Archibald Douglas were "chief actors" in Darnley's murder. [54]

Mary was kept in captivity until she was implicated in the Babington plot against Elizabeth, after which she was convicted of treason and executed. [55]

Darnley was buried in the Royal Vault at Holyrood Abbey in 1567 alongside the bodies of several royals: King David II, King James II, Arthur, Duke of Rothesay, Madeleine of Valois, James, Duke of Rothesay, Arthur, Duke of Albany and King James V. In 1668, the vault was opened by mobs, and sometime later (between 1776 and 1778), the vault was raided and the skull of Lord Darnley was stolen. [56]

In 1928, a paper was published by Karl Pearson, [57] detailing his vast research into the skull of Lord Darnley. In his paper, Pearson discussed the possibility of Darnley's skull residing in the Royal College of Surgeons’ museum. In 2016, at the request of the University of Edinburgh, research was undertaken to identify whether a skull in the university's collection could be Darnley's stolen remains. The Royal College of Surgeons' skull and the Edinburgh one were examined and compared to portraits of Darnley by Emma Price at the University of Dundee. The conclusion was that the Edinburgh skull could not be Darnley's, but the Royal College of Surgeons' one (which had been destroyed in the Blitz) was a good match. A historical facial reconstruction was then produced. [43] [58]


Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) lived in France between 1548 and 1560 and clothing bought for her is particularly well-documented in the year 1551. [1] Her wedding dress in 1558 was described in some detail. More detailed records of her costume survive from her time in Scotland, with purchases recorded in the royal treasurer's accounts and wardrobe accounts kept by Servais de Condé. Inventories were made of her clothing and her jewellery during her time in Scotland and after she abdicated and went to England. Details of her costume on the day of her execution at Fotheringhay in 1587 were widely reported and circulated in manuscript. [2]

Few details of known of Mary's clothes in infancy in Scotland, except that Margaret Balcomie had an allowance of soap and coal to warm the water to wash her linen. In 1548 her mother, Mary of Guise, asked her envoy Henri Cleutin to buy cloth of gold for a gown for her, from the merchants who served the French court. [3] In France in 1551, her clothes were embroidered with jewels, a white satin skirt front and sleeves featured 120 diamonds and rubies, and coifs for her hair had gold buttons or rubies, sewn by her tailor Nicolas du Moncel. [4] In 1554 her governess Françoise d'Estainville, Dame de Paroy, wrote to Mary of Guise asking permission to buy two diamonds to lengthen one of Mary's headbands with rubies and pearls. She also wanted to buy a new gown of cloth-of-gold for Mary to wear at the wedding of Nicolas, Count of Vaudémont (1524–1577), and Princess Joanna of Savoy-Nemours (1532–1568) at Fontainebleau. This new costume was intended to emulate the fashion adopted by the French princesses of the blood, Elisabeth of Valois and Claude of France (1547–1575). [5]

After her first husband Francis II of France died in 1560, Mary wore a form of mourning called deuil blanc, involving a white pleated cambric veil. Her portrait was drawn by François Clouet, and reproduced in several painted versions made after her death. The paintings indicate either a dark blue or green gown, not present in the drawing. [6] Mary discussed her image as a woman in mourning with the English ambassador Nicholas Throckmorton in the context of sending her portrait to Queen Elizabeth. [7] Throckmorton's letter suggests she was not wearing the deuil when they spoke in August 1560. [8] The Scottish accounts for November 1561 mention the women of the household transitioning into a "second mourning", or perhaps receiving their second allowance of black velvet mourning clothes. [9]

During Mary's adult reign in Scotland, purchases of textiles for her clothes and payments for tailors appear in the accounts of the Lord Treasurer. Her mother, Mary of Guise, as Regent (1554-1560) had paid for her clothes from her own French incomes. [10] Mary had a wardrobe as a department of her household, with several officers and artisans including tailors and embroiderers, and the "tapissiers" who looked after tapestry, beds, and furniture with her menusier, the household carpenter. There were workers outside the household too, mostly in Edinburgh, including the Flemish shoemaker Fremyn Alezard. Servais de Condé, a valet of the chamber, kept a written record in French tracking the use of the more expensive fabrics. A broadly similar record of fabrics used by Mary of Guise from 1552 to 1554 also survives. [11] In this example from July 1564, black velvet was given to Mary's tailor to make a purse for handkerchiefs:

Plus a Jehan de Conpiegne i quartier de veloux noyr pour faire une grand bource pour la Royne lequelz fert a metre les mouchoy.
More, to Jehan de Compiegne, a quarter of black velvet to make a big purse for the queen, which she carries to hold handkerchiefs. [12]

Inventories of Mary's clothes written in French survive in the National Archives of Scotland and were printed by Joseph Robertson in 1863. This is an example of a skirt, with a note that it was given to the queen's favourite Mary Beaton:

Une vasquyne de satin cramoysy enrechye d'une bande d'ung passement d'argent faict a jour et borde d'ung passement d'argent.
Au moy de Fevvrier la Royne donne laditz vasquine a Mademoysel de Beton. [13]

This was one of fifteen embroidered skirts with passementerie listed in 1562. There were six plain skirts, and fifteen skirts of cloth of gold or silver. A cloth of gold skirt with matching sleeves was given to Magdalen Livingstone for her wedding. A skirt of cloth of silver was unpicked in 1566 for fabric to dress a bed. [14]

Mary's tailor Jehan de Compiegne made costumes from orange "changing" or shot taffeta for a masque in February 1565 at Holyrood Palace, with a smaller costume in the same fabric for a young girl at court. The English ambassador Thomas Randolph said the Shrove Tide banquets at the Scottish court were great as those given at a royal wedding. The queen's ladies wore white and black at one banquet, and verses were recited as the courses were brought in by gentlemen wearing black and white. [15] For another masque, Jehan de Compiegne made six costumes decorated with flames made of cloth of gold reused from old cushion covers. During the masque the queen's ladies presented 8 Scottish dirks or daggers to the French guests, with embroidered black velvet scabbards. [16]

On 5 September 1566 Mary ordered fabrics for the household of her son, the future James VI, at Stirling Castle, for beds and bedding for Margaret Beaton, Lady Reres and the gentlewomen appointed as rockers of the prince's cradle. Taffeta was bought to make costumes for the masque at James' baptism. In January 1567 the tailor Jehan de de Compiegne was given clothes including a black "Almain" or German-style cloak. In February the jester George Styne or Stevin had a costume made of blue kersey, and in March Nichola the fool had new linen. Mary's mourning for Darnley required 24 papers of pins. 10 ells of linen were bought for lining Mary's bathtub, and canvas for bathing was delivered to Toussaint Courcelles. [17]

Mary changed into a short skirt at Fawside Castle on the morning of 15 June 1567 before the Battle of Carberry Hill. She left some clothes behind in a chest, including a gown of black "estamet" (stemming) embroidered with grains of jet, a crimson chamlet dress, a plaid, a great cloak, and a hat embroidered with gold and silver, with a panache. The black gown was "faict a la souvaige", perhaps meaning Highland fashion. [18]

Clothes and sewing thread for embroidery were sent to Mary in her prison at Lochleven Castle. On 3 September 1567 Mary wrote to Robert Melville to ask Servais de Condé to send silk thread and sewing gold and silver, and two pairs of sheets with black thread for embroidery, and needles and a mould (cushion) for net-work called "rasour" or "réseau", with dried plums and pears. [19] Some of the request was fulfilled by new purchases by her half-brother Regent Moray in October. [20]

A memorandum written in French survives of textiles and thread sent to Mary at Lochleven, Carlisle, and Bolton Castle. [21] Mary escaped from Lochleven on 2 May 1568, her disguise involved a borrowed red dress and changing her hairstyle so she looked like a local woman. [22] Usually, Mary's hair was elaborately dressed by Mary Seton. [23] Three days after her escape, her French cook Estienne Hauet (Stephen Hewat) and his wife Elles Boug packed four silk gowns, two velvet gowns, a chamlet gown, a satin partlet, and other items in a chest to send to the queen wherever she might be. [24] After Langside, John Gordon of Lochinvar gave her clothes. [25] When Mary arrived in England, "her attire was very mean", and she had no change of clothes. [26]

The first consignment of clothes from Lochleven Castle to arrive in England for Mary proved inadequate, and she complained to Francis Knollys that in three coffers sent by Regent Moray there was only one gown of taffeta, the rest only cloaks, saddle cloths, sleeves, partlets and "such like trinketts". [27]

Queen Elizabeth apparently hesitated to send her some of her own clothes, but did send 16 yards of black velvet, 16 yards of black satin and 10 yards of black taffeta, a gift interpreted by the costume historian Janet Arnold as a hint that Mary ought to be in mourning clothes. [28] Mary's secretary Claude Nau mentions the receipt of this gift of textiles at Carlisle, packed in a small box and in shorter lengths than specified in Elizabeth's warrant. [29] The Spanish diplomat, Guzmán de Silva, seems to have reported this particular gift to Phillip II as an unsuitable present for a queen comprising two old chemises, some black velvet, and a pair of shoes. [30]

Francis Knollys sent Richard Graham alias Garse Ritchie, a servant of Lord Scrope, to bring more of Mary's clothes from Lochleven. He brought five cart loads and four laden horses to Bolton Castle on 20 July 1568. He went back to Scotland, where Regent Moray gave him a reward of 50 French crowns and a parcel of new clothing and costume fabric for his half-sister including grey and black taffeta, black velvet, thread for stitching, jet buttons, and 12 pairs of leather shoes. [31] Mary wanted Garse Richie to fetch her "jewels", the furs with gold mounts known as zibellini, from John Sempill of Beltrees but Moray would not allow this. [32] Mary received her portable sounding alarm clock or watch from Lochleven, kept in a purse of silver and grey réseau work which she may have made herself. [33]

A shopping list drawn up in 1572 by Jehan de Compiegne for Jean de Beaucaire, Seigneur de Puiguillon, gives an idea of clothes and textiles obtained from Paris. She may have imported similar goods during her years in Scotland, utilising her French income, although similar goods were available in Edinburgh merchants' booths. The lengths of fabrics were specified for some garments, robes of Florence serge, and doublets of satin lined with taffeta. The order included Milan-style points or fers, and points of jet, an apparently ready-made velvet Spanish-style gown, stockings, shoes, velvet and leather slippers, plain and embroidered handkerchiefs, and other items. The purchases were packed in two coffers or bahuts and shipped in May to the French ambassador Mothe-Fénélon in London to forward to Mary at Sheffield Castle. [34] The clothes had not reached her by 10 June, so Mary wrote to Mothe Fénélon about the missing coffer her tailor had brought to London. [35] Mary seems to have made a similar order in April 1573. [36]

In 1574 Mary embroidered an incarnate satin skirt with silver thread using materials bought in London by the ambassador, Mothe Fénélon. [37] She had sent him a sample of the silk required. She soon wrote for more incarnate silk thread, better quality thinner silver thread, and incarnate taffeta for the lining. [38] Mothe-Fénélon presented the finished item to Elizabeth on 22 May, with a declaration of friendship, and reported to Charles IX of France that the gift was a success. [39] [40] Presumably hopeful of an audience at the English court, Mary asked the Archbishop of Glasgow, her contact in Paris, to send coifs embroidered with gold and silver and the latest fashion in Italian ribbons and veils for her hair. [41]

Elizabeth remained cautious of Mary's gifts, and was reluctant to try some sweets which Mothe Fénélon offered her as a gift from the brother of the chancellor of Mary's dowry, for fear of poison. [42] Mary gave Elizabeth a skirt front or devant de cotte in July 1576, made in her household, and followed up with an embroidered casket and a headdress. She wrote that if the skirt pleased Elizabeth she could have others made, even more beautiful. Mary asked Elizabeth if she would send the pattern of the high necked bodice she wore, "un patron d'un de voz corps a haut collet" for her to copy. [43]

While Mary was England, and her son James VI was growing up at Stirling Castle, a substantial remainder of Mary's wardrobe and the furnishings of her palaces were locked up in Edinburgh Castle. An inventory was made in March 1578, written in the Scots Language, including her "gownes, vaskenis, skirtis, slevis, doublettis, vaillis, vardingallis, cloikis". [44] The inventory exists in two copies, one in the National Archives of Scotland and another in the British Library. [45]

Among the hundreds of items "a Highland kirtle of black stemming embroidered with blue silk" was related to the black gown found in Mary's chest at Fawside, and a pair of white canvas shepherd's kirtles were remnants from a masque performed at Castle Campbell in 1563 at the wedding of Lord Doune. [46] Accessories included "huidis, quaiffis, collaris, rabattis, orilyeitis (fronts of hoods), napkins, caming cloths, covers of night gear, hose, shoes, and gloves". [47] Miscellaneous items in a coffer included a set of dolls called "pippens" with their miniature wardrobe, perhaps for play, or fashion dolls for creating new outfits. [48]

An inventory of Mary's wardrobe was made at Chartley Castle on 13 June 1586, written in French. The main headings are: [49]

  • Gowns or robes, including
    • A black velvet gown with a tail, embroidered with pearls, lined with black taffeta, with pearl buttons on the front and on the sleeves
    • Another gown of crêpe, embroidered with jet, the bodice lined with white satin
    • Another gown of black satin, lined with black taffeta, two velvets passements at the front
    • Another skirt of black taffeta, banded, lined with taffeta
    • Another of black satin, lined with black taffeta, with two bands of velvet passementerie at the front
    • Another of white satin, lined with white buckram, banded with beads of jet
    • Another of white satin, with taffeta cordons on the sleeves
    • A jupe of "cramoisy brun" velvet with bands of black passementerie, lined with "brune" taffetta. This garment accords with a description of Mary's costume on the day of her execution given by Adam Blackwood, and the "iuppe de velours cramoisy brun" mentioned in La Mort de la Royne D'Escosse (1588). [50]
    • A jupe of crimson figured satin, with four bands of blue silk and silver passementerie, with fringes of the same, lined with white taffeta
    • A dais or cloth of estate of violet silk, embroidered with the arms of Scotland and Lorraine. [51]
    • Another cloth of estate of "cramoisy" brown velvet, barred with silver passementerie. [52]
    • The bodice of a velvet gown with a high collar, with sleeves embroidered with passementerie and jet
    • A garniture or ornament for a gown with bands of pearls on black velvet

    A further inventory was made at Chartley on 18 May of needlework in the keeping of Renée Rallay alias Mademoiselle de Beauregard. This includes 102 flowers worked in petit-point, 124 birds, and another 116 birds cut-out, 16 four-footed beasts including a lion attacking a wild boar, 52 fish, and other works of embroidery intended for a bed and a cloth of estate. [53] Another paper (in two parts) in French describes the devices on Mary's bed, the embroidered emblems with Latin mottoes. [54] In August 1586, possibly while Mary was taken to Tixall, an inventory was made of her jewels and silver plate in the keeping of Jean Kennedy. Some fabrics were in the keeping of Elizabeth Curle. [55]

    There is also a short list of items stolen from Mary in 1586. The circumstances are unclear. The list includes a gold pincase to wear on a girdle, enamelled white and red, doublets of russet satin and canvas, a black velvet cap with a green and black feather, and three embroidered mufflers or scarves of which two were black velvet. Three "carcanet chains" or necklaces were embroidered with gold and silver. [56]

    After Mary's execution in February 1587 a list of her belongings, jewellery and apparell, in the possession of various members of her household was made. [57] Jean Kennedy, Renée Rallay, Gillis Mowbray, and Mary Pagez, the daughter of Bastian Pagez, each held several items from the queen's wardrobe. Renée Rallay had the queen's embroidery silks. Some pieces, including the black velvet gown set with pearls were said to have been earmarked by Mary to be sold by her Master of Household, Andrew Melville of Garvock, to cover the expenses of the return of servants to Scotland. [58]

    Some of Mary's things were sent to Scotland, and in April 1603, the secretary of Anne of Denmark, William Fowler noted some of the emblems or devices embroidered on the curtains of Mary's bed at Holyrood Palace. [59]

    A narrative of Mary's execution on 8 February 1587 by "R. W.", Robert Wingfield, [60] mentions her costume as she left her bedchamber "her borrowed hair" a wig, and on her head she had a dressing of lawn edged with bone lace, a pomander chain and an "Agnus Dei" about her neck, a Crucifix in her hand, a pair of beads (a rosary) at her girdle, with a golden cross at the end of them. She had a veil of lawn fastened to her caul bowed out with wire, and edged round about with bone lace. Her gown was of black satin painted, with a train and long sleeves to the ground, with acorn-shaped buttons of jet and pearl. She had short or half sleeves of black satin, over a pair of sleeves of purple velvet. Her kirtle was of figured black satin, her petticoat upperbody unlaced in the back of crimson satin, [61] and her petticoat skirt of crimson velvet, her shoes of Spanish leather with the rough side outward, a pair of green silk garters, her nether stockings of worsted were coloured watchet (sky blue), clocked with silver, and edged on the tops with silver, and next by her leg, a pair of white Jersey hose. [62] [63]

    The two executioners disrobed her, with her two women (Jean Kennedy and Elizabeth Curle) helping, [64] and then she laid the crucifix upon a stool. One of the executioners took the Agnus Dei from her neck, and she laid hold of it, saying she would give it to one of her women. Then they took off her chain of pomander beads and all her other apparel. She put on a pair of sleeves with her own hands. At length, she was unattired and unapparelled to her petticoat and kirtle. [65] Anything touched by the queen's blood was burnt in hall's chimney fire. [66]

    Mary mentioned in a letter to the Bishop of Glasgow on 6 November 1577 that she had been sent "chaplets" or rosaries, and an "Agnus Dei" from Rome. These may be the items mentioned in the narrative of the execution. [67] Another account of the execution, written by a Catholic writer, mentions that she wore a gown of black satin with French-style embroidery of black velvet. A gown of this description was listed at Chartley and after the execution. [68] This writer does not mention the disrobing or any red clothes. [69] A 19th-century historian James Anthony Froude conjectured that the "blood-red" costume, mentioned in Wingfield's account, was extraordinary and deliberate or "carefully studied". [70] Red petticoats were not uncommon in Elizabethan England. [71] Recent writers suppose that Mary wore red to suggest an affiliation to martyrdom, since the colour may represent martyrdom. [72]

    The French ambassador in Edinburgh, Monsieur de Courcelles, bought black fabric from Henry Nisbet for mourning clothes for himself and his household including bombazine for doublets, and dyed Beauvais serge for his men, "sairg de Beauvois tainct en soye pour habiller votre gens en dueil". [73]

    Mary Queen of Scots facts

    Explore the life of Mary Queen of Scots, with our timeline of key events in the life of the Stewart queen.

    Mary Queen of Scots timeline

    1. Mary's birth: 8 December 1542

    Mary was born at Linlithgow Palace, the daughter of James V of Scotland and his second wife Marie de Guise.

    2. Mary became queen: 14 December 1542

    James V was killed following the Battle of Solway Moss, leaving Mary as queen of Scotland at six days of age.

    3. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned: 9 September 1543

    Mary was crowned at Stirling Castle, a building which was a favourite with the Stewarts, and which Mary would visit many times. Stirling was chosen because of its position as one of the most secure locations within the kingdom. Stirling Castle facts.

    4. The rough wooing: 9 September 1547

    Mary arrived for a stay at Inchmahome Priory during the &lsquorough wooing&rsquo during which Henry VIII of England tried to force a marriage between Mary and his son Edward.

    5. Mary left for France: August 1548

    Mary leaves Scotland for France, to be brought up in the royal court in preparation for her marriage to Francis, dauphin of France, under the terms of the Treaty of Haddington. The royal party leave from Dumbarton Castle, with a week-long sea voyage ahead of them.

    6. The marriage of Mary Queen of Scots: 24 April 1558

    Mary married Francis in Notre Dame de Paris. Explore the story of Mary's three husbands.

    7. Mary as queen: 10 July 1559

    Henry II of France died, leaving Francis as king of France and Mary his queen.

    8. Death of Francis II: 5 December 1560

    Francis II died and the French throne passed to his brother Charles. His death came just months after that of Mary&rsquos mother Marie de Guise, who died on 11 June in Edinburgh Castle.

    9. Return to Scotland: 19 August 1561

    Mary returned from France to Scotland, arriving at the Port of Leith.

    10. Mary and Darnley: 29 July 1565

    Mary married her second husband, Henry Lord Darnley, a marriage which proved unpopular with Mary&rsquos advisors and courtiers, as well as with Elizabeth I of England, because of the pair&rsquos individual claims to the English throne &ndash both Darnley and Mary were descendants of Henry VII of England.

    11. Birth of James VI: 19 June 1566

    Mary gave birth to a son, the future James VI. The prince was born at Edinburgh Castle, again chosen for its secure position.

    12. Mary and Bothwell: 15 October 1566

    Mary&rsquos horseback journey to Jedburgh was interrupted with the news that the Earl of Bothwell has been injured. She undertakes what became an infamous horseback ride to the earl, who later became her third husband.

    13. Darnley's murder 10 February 1567

    Darnley was found murdered, presumed suffocated, at Kirk o&rsquoField in Edinburgh, after escaping an explosion in the house where he was staying. Mary had been attending wedding celebrations and was accused of involvement in Darnley&rsquos death. Although Mary was accused of involvement in the murder, the prime suspect was the Earl of Bothwell, who within weeks would be Mary&rsquos husband.

    14. Abduction: 24 April 1567

    Mary was abducted, either forcibly or willingly, by James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and taken to Dunbar Castle. The pair travelled to Edinburgh together and were married in a Protestant ceremony on 15 May.

    15. Mary's abdication: 24 July 1567

    Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son James, whilst staying at Loch Leven Castle. In May 1568, she was able to escape her island prison with the help of George Douglas, and set about trying to gather support.

    16. Langside: 16 May 1568

    Mary was defeated at the Battle of Langside and fled to England, hoping for the support of her cousin Elizabeth I of England. Little did Mary know that this would be the start of a 19-year imprisonment and she would never be granted an audience with her kinswoman.

    17. Imprisonment: January 1569

    Mary arrived at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, which will reputedly become her most hated prison. She was placed in the care of the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick.

    18. Babington Plot: 1586

    After years of imprisonment, Mary was implicated in the Babington Plot, when she was tricked into agreeing to a plot proposed by Anthony Babington which proposed the assasination of Elizabeth I.

    Whilst Mary was in captivity, she attracted a good deal of attention as a figurehead for the Catholic cause in England. Numerous plotters and conspiracies centred around making crowning Mary as Queen following a foreign-backed invasion and rising in the north.
    Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster, kept a close eye on her. Mary did little to dispel plotters, often writing lengthy letters to those involved. In 1586 Walsingham revealed that he had intercepted letters between Mary and Anthony Babington, a plotter seeking to unseat Elizabeth: Mary clearly agreed, in writing, to the plot going ahead. Walsingham persuaded Elizabeth to put Mary on trial for treason. She was found guilty in October 1586 and sentenced to death.

    Elizabeth I’s famed spymaster Francis Walsingham kept Mary under tight surveillance. Image credit: National Portrait Gallery / CC.

    France, 1548-61

    Mary was given a royal welcome in France by King Henry II. He ordered that she would have precedence over his own daughters as she was sovereign of an independent country and also because she was to wed his heir, the Dauphin. The king also became very fond of the child, saying, ‘The little Queen of Scots is the most perfect child I have ever seen.’ While in France, Mary’s maternal grandmother, Antoinette de Guise, wrote to her daughter in Scotland that Mary was ‘very pretty, graceful and self-assured.’

    Mary was 5 when she first met the four-year-old Dauphin, her betrothed husband. According to most contemporaries, they were close and affectionate with one another even as children. They traveled from one royal palace to another – Fountaineblea to Meudon, or to Chambord or Saint-Germain. They were always attended to by a retinue of servants and, even then, Mary had developed a fondness for animals, especially dogs, which was to continue throughout her life. Mary was also educated in the traditional manner of French princesses she spoke French and learned Latin, Italian, Spanish and a little Greek. She learned to dance, sing, play the lute as well as converse on religious matters. Her religious tutor was the prior of Inchmahome, a Scottish priest. When she was seven, her mother came to France to visit her when Mary of Guise returned to Scotland, neither realized that they would never see each other again.

    By the age of eleven, Mary was deemed to be as intelligent and well-spoken as a woman of twenty-five by her doting father-in-law. It is worth noting that the Guise family regarded Mary as one of their own not only was betrothed to the heir to the throne but her mother was a Guise as well. Her uncle, Cardinal Guise, taught her about statecraft, perhaps encouraging her natural feelings of clemency and mercy. In fact, Mary was to be remarkably free from bigotry during her short reign in Scotland, even towards her subjects of a different religion.

    Portrait of Mary queen of Scots and her first husband, Francis II of France

    In 1555, Mary sent back letters to her mother in Scotland to be used for administrative purposes and it is from these that we first see her royal signature ‘MARIE R’. In 1558, she married the Dauphin in an incredible celebration in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Exceptionally tall for a woman in the 16th century, Mary was every inch the regal Queen she had an oval face, shapely chin, and small mouth which were set off by her golden-red hair, her large forehead, and hazel eyes. Many considered Mary to be the most beautiful princess in Europe, much as they had thought of her relative, Henry VIII’s sister, Mary, who had also come to France as queen for a short while. Mary was not always in the best of health but, unlike her husband, there were no immediate concerns for her life.

    In 1558, Queen Mary I of England passed away and Henry II of France encouraged his daughter-in- law to assume the royal arms of England. In his opinion – and that of most of Catholic Europe – Mary of Scotland was the next heir to the English throne. This belief, of course, would have serious repercussions throughout Mary’s life. Elizabeth I never forgot this first offense and never rested easily while her Catholic relative was alive. But the matter was smoothed over when Elizabeth was persuadd the assumption was due more to Guise ambitions than Mary’s actual wish. In 1559, Henry II of France, died at the age of 40. Mary and her husband were crowned Queen and King of France. But in June of 1560, Mary’s mother died in Scotland at the age of 45. And just six months later, her young husband also died of an ear infection. Mary was understandably devastated by this chain of tragic events. Thockmorton, the English ambassador, commented that Francis had left ‘as dolorous a wife as she had good cause to be. By long watching with him during his sickness and painful diligence about him’ she had become exhausted and made herself ill. She wrote a poem, in French, about her grief at his death this is a translation of one verse:

    By day, by night, I think of him/ In wood or mead, or where I be/ My heart keeps watch for one who’s gone./ And yet I feel he’s aye with me.

    What was Mary to do next? She left for Scotland, a land rife with religious and civil discord. Without waiting for a safe-conduct pass from Elizabeth, whose ships were patrolling her route, Mary set out for Scotland on 14 August 1561 and, five days later, reached Leith, the port of Edinburgh.

    Mary Queen of Scots

    Born – 8th December 1542, Linlithgow, Scotland
    Parents – James V, Mary of Guise
    Siblings – James, Robert
    Married – 1. Francis II of France
    2. Henry Stuart Lord Darnley
    3. James Hepburn Earl of Bothwell
    Children – Marriage 2 – James (I of England, VI of Scotland)
    Died – 8th February 1587, beheaded at Fotheringay Castle

    Mary Queen of Scots was the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. She became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old after her father died at the Battle of Solway Moss.

    A marriage was arranged between Mary and Edward, only son of Henry VIII but was broken when the Scots decided they preferred an alliance with France. Mary spent a happy childhood in France and in 1558 married Francis, heir to the French throne. They became king and queen of France in 1559.

    Sadly, Francis died in 1560 and Mary, not wanting to stay in France, returned to Scotland. During Mary’s absence, Scotland had become a Protestant country. The Protestants did not want Mary, a Catholic and their official queen, to have any influence.

    In 1565 Mary married her cousin and heir to the English throne, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. The marriage was not a happy one. Darnley was jealous of Mary’s close friendship with her secretary, David Rizzio and in March 1566 had him murdered in front of Mary who was six months pregnant with the future James I. Darnley made many enemies among the Scottish nobles and in 1567 his house was blown up. Darnley’s body was found inside, he had been strangled.

    Three months later Mary married the chief suspect, the Earl of Bothwell. The people of Scotland were outraged and turned against her. She was removed from the throne and fled to England. She appealed to Elizabeth for help and support, but Elizabeth, suspicious that she was going to raise Catholic support and take the throne of England, kept Mary a virtual prisoner for the next eighteen years.

    In 1586 letters sent to Mary by a Catholic called Thomas Babington, were found. The letters revealed a plot to kill Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. Elizabeth had no choice but to sign Mary’s death warrant. Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle on February 8th 1587.

    Where History Happened: Mary Queen of Scots

    1. Holyroodhouse Palace

    Holyroodhouse Palace is the Scottish royal residence famed as having been home to Mary Queen of Scots. Not only was the palace Mary’s main home between 1561 and 1567, it was where she married two of her husbands. It was also at Holyroodhouse Palace that she was witness to the murder of her private secretary by her husband.

    Today, visitors can see the ruins of the abbey of Holyroodhouse as well as touring the palace and the royal apartments. A visit to the site usually lasts around an hour to an hour and a half.

    2. Falkland Palace

    Falkland Palace was the country retreat and hunting lodge of the royal Stuart dynasty and a favourite home of Mary Queen of Scots. Begun in 1450 and completed in 1541, Falkland Palace was the work of kings James IV and James V and was very much a regular retreat of Mary Queen of Scots. The highlights of Falkland Palace today are its gardens and portraits of the Stuarts.

    3. Chatsworth House

    Chatsworth House is an English country estate that once served as the prison of Mary Queen of Scots. Today Chatsworth is open to the public and boasts a wealth of interesting art, furniture and antiques as well as exceptional architecture. Visitors can explore a number of stunning rooms and displays as well as taking an audio tour.

    4. Fotheringhay Castle

    Birthplace of Richard III and site of the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, this Norman motte and bailey castle is now a ruin – in fact very little is left of it today. Fortheringhay Castle is easily accessable during daylight hours, and should delight those interested in medieval history, the Wars of the Roses and Elizabethan politics

    5. Edinburgh Castle

    A royal residence, a vital stronghold and an iconic structure, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. The castle was the site of the birth of King James VI, also James I of England from 1603, to Mary Queen of Scots in 1566. Visitors can still see the small room where this monarch was born.

    Today, visitors to Edinburgh Castle can explore the history through a series of guided tours and exhibitions. Amongst its many attractions are the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum, the Mons Meg and the Great Hall.

    6. Stirling Castle

    Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace which was the location of the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543.

    Today, Stirling Castle offers tours around its buildings and grounds. Visitors can tour with an audio guide or with a tour guide and there are a range of exhibitions to see. Not least of these is the Regimental Museum, a military museum dedicated to the Argyll

    7. Craigmillar Castle

    Craigmillar Castle was built from the fourteenth century and is now a pretty and well-preserved medieval ruin. The most famed aspect of Craigmillar Castle was that it played host to Mary Queen of Scots when she was recovering from an illness. It is also the namesake of a pact between several noblemen to murder her husband, Lord Darnley.

    Today, several aspects of the fourteenth century structure of Craigmillar Castle remain, including an impressive tower. There is also a maze of medieval tunnels.

    8. Inchmahome Priory

    Inchmahome Priory was first founded as an Augustinian monastery in approximately 1238 under the instructions of the Earl of Menteith. Over the centuries, Inchmahome Priory’s secluded location made it an ideal refuge.

    Even royals saw Inchmahome Priory as a sanctuary, including King Robert Bruce. However, it is more famous for the time when a young Mary Queen of Scots sheltered there in 1547 following the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Pinkie. Today, its picturesque ruins are a major tourist attraction.

    9. Lochleven Castle

    Lochleven Castle was a medieval island stronghold, the dramatic ruins of which can be reached by boat. Whilst being most well known for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots, Lochleven Castle’s role within Scottish royal history extends far further.

    Many royals were guests – as opposed to prisoners – at Lochleven Castle, including King Robert Bruce and even Mary herself. What’s more, other royals were imprisoned at Lochleven Castle other than Mary Queen of Scots, particularly the (then future) Robert II. Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle by Sir William Douglas from 1567 and forced to abdicate her throne in favour of James VI, her own infant son. She would escape within a year.

    Today, visitors go to see the fourteenth to fifteenth century tower where Mary was held. Inside, you can still see where the kitchen and other spaces would have been.

    10. Linlithgow Palace

    Linlithgow Palace was built in the fifteenth century on a site with a history dating back thousands of years. Now a dramatic ruin, its royal connection makes it an enduring tourist attraction.

    It was James I who began building Linlithgow Palace in 1424. With its location between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle, it soon became a popular place for royals to visit, including most of the Stuart kings.

    In 1542, Linlithgow Palace also became the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, although the room in which she was born no longer exists.

    From 1603, Linlithgow Palace’s era as a royal pit stop began to deteriorate as the royal court moved to London under James VI. The palace’s decline was confirmed when it was destroyed by a fire in 1745.

    The Marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots

    Mary wedded Francis, Dauphin of France on 24 April 1558.

    Mary became Queen of Scots when she was less than a week old, on the death of her father, James in December 1542. Crowned at nine months, she was in the charge first of the Earl of Arran and then of her redoubtable mother, Mary of Guise, who was from one of the most powerful aristocratic families in France. A Roman Catholic and regent from 1554, she had to contend with both the rising tide of Protestantism in Scotland and the machinations of the English who had tried to force a marriage between the baby queen and Edward Tudor, the young heir to the English throne.

    It was not a prospect Mary of Guise could tolerate and in 1548 the five-year-old Mary was sent to her grandmother Antoinette of Guise in France, where her Scottish entourage was considered appallingly barbarous and swiftly got rid of, and she was brought up as a Catholic Frenchwoman. French became her first language, she always called herself Marie Stuart and she loved dancing and hunting. She grew up delightfully charming, graceful and attractive, the French fell in love with her and Henry II of France resolved to marry her to his son and heir, the sickly dauphin Francis. A marriage treaty was signed with the Scots, which provided that Scotland and France should eventually be united under Mary and Francis as one kingdom. There were also secret agreements, which the youthful and inexperienced Mary signed, that would have made Scotland a mere adjunct of France.

    Mary was fifteen and Francis fourteen when they were married with spectacular pageantry and magnificence in the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, by the Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen, in the presence of Henry II, Queen Catherine de’ Medici, the princes and princesses of the blood and a glittering throng of cardinals and nobles. The Duke of Guise was master of ceremonies. Mary in a white dress with a long train borne by two young girls, a diamond necklace and a golden coronet studded with jewels, was described by the courtier Pierre de Brantôme as ‘a hundred times more beautiful than a goddess of heaven … her person alone was worth a kingdom.’ The wedding was followed by a procession past excited crowds in the Paris streets to a grand banquet in the Palais de Justice with dancing far into the night.

    Mary became Queen of France when Henry II died the following year, but Francis died prematurely in 1560. Whether the marriage was ever consummated is uncertain. Mary’s mother also died in 1560 and it suited the French to send her back to Scotland and claim that she was the rightful queen of England as well. She would eventually meet political and romantic disaster in Scotland, enduring years of imprisonment in England where, too dangerous a threat to Elizabeth’s throne, she was executed in 1587, at the age of forty-six.

    Mary, Queen of Scots: what happened to her ladies-in-waiting?

    They witnessed first-hand the most eventful periods in Mary Stuart's life, accompanying her everywhere and enjoying the lavish court entertainments so important to 16th-century monarchy. But what happened to the four girls appointed to be companions and, later, ladies-in-waiting, to the Queen of Scots?

    This competition is now closed

    Published: August 14, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Melita Thomas, editor of Tudor Times, investigates the fate of Mary’s ladies…

    “Yest’re’en the Queen had fower Marys
    The nicht she’ll hae but three
    There was Mary Seton and Mary Beaton,
    And Mary Carmichael and me”

    So runs the old ballad, remembering the four friends and companions of a fifth Mary – Mary Stuart, the romantic and ill-fated Queen of Scots. The queen’s fate is well known – she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February 1587 for her complicity in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I. But who were her four Marys, and what became of them?

    Mary Stuart was Mary, Queen of Scots in her cradle. Her early years were spent in an atmosphere of unease as her mother, Marie de Guise, sought to protect her from the predatory Scottish nobles who fought for the regency and for control of the little queen. The nobility was divided between those who supported the traditional French and Catholic alliance that Marie represented, and those who looked to a newly Protestant England to support the burgeoning Scottish Reformation.

    Despite this tension, Marie de Guise sought to give her daughter a happy childhood, and appointed four girls to be her companions and, later, ladies-in-waiting. What all the girls had in common, as well as their Christian name, was noble birth and similarity in age to the queen. There was also – whether deliberately or not – a pun in the choice of girls called Mary, as ‘marie’ was the Scots word for a maid, derived from the Icelandic ‘maer’.

    The ballad above is slightly wrong on the names – they were Seton, Beaton, Fleming and Livingston. Fleming’s mother, Janet, Lady Fleming was the illegitimate half-sister of Mary’s father, James V, and Livingston was the daughter of the queen’s guardian, Alexander, 5th Lord Livingston of Callendar. Beaton’s grandfather was first cousin to Cardinal David Beaton, one of the men vying for the role of regent, while Seton was the daughter of George, 4th Lord Seton, and she and Beaton were also daughters of two of Marie de Guise’s ladies-in-waiting.

    The four Marys in France

    The location Marie de Guise chose as most likely to keep the queen safe during these troubled times was the almost impregnable fortress of Stirling Castle. However, it soon became apparent that this was not a long-term solution. The English government, first under Henry VIII, Mary’s great-uncle, and then the lord protector and council of Edward VI, were determined that she should marry Edward VI – a view supported by some of the Scots nobles.

    Marie de Guise, and the pro-French faction among the nobles, were determined to prevent this, favouring the ‘Auld Alliance’ with France – especially when it came well lubricated with French pensions – and intended her to marry the French heir, Dauphin Francois [son of King Henri II]. In preparation for an escape to France, the queen was sent first to Inchmahome Priory, and then to Dumbarton on the coast. It was at Inchmahome that the four Marys joined her household. In 1548, they set sail for France.

    The girls endured a rough crossing – all except the queen were afflicted by seasickness. Livingston and Fleming at least had the consolation of travelling with their families, since Lord Livingston and Lady Fleming as guardian and governess accompanied the queen. On arrival, Mary was immediately taken into the household of King Henri’s children, while her four friends were sent away.

    Henri II’s motive for separating Mary from her companions was two-fold: first, he wanted her to speak French, rather than Scots, and second, he wanted her closest friends to be his daughters, the Princesses Elisabeth and Claude. Not that Henri was averse to a Scots tete-a-tete – Lady Fleming was sent home in disgrace after bearing him a son.

    The four Marys were dispatched to the Dominican Royal Priory of Saint Louis at Poissy. Far from being a backwater, Poissy was at the forefront of Renaissance learning, with close ties to the court. There, the Marys would have received a thorough Humanist education, as well as learning all the skills necessary to be wives of noblemen, and attendants on a queen.

    Seton seems to have been trained in hairdressing, too. Her skill in dressing her mistress’s head – first when Mary’s lustrous auburn hair was the toast of European courts, then afterward, when it thinned and greyed and was augmented by wigs – was remarked on. Later, the Marys returned to the queen’s household, where they enjoyed such domestic pleasures as making marmalade and crystallised fruit.

    At the centre of the Scottish court, 1561–68

    Mary married Francois in 1558. Following her brief period as queen of France, the widowed Mary [Francois died in December 1560] returned to Scotland in 1561, aged 18, and ready to take up the burden of personal sovereignty. Her Marys returned with her as ladies-in-waiting.

    The first years in Scotland were taken up with Mary’s determination to control the complex political situation with which she was faced. A group of nobles, led by James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray (Mary’s half-brother), and calling themselves the Lords of the Congregation, had converted (some with rather more sincerity than others) to Protestantism, and changed the official religion of Scotland. This led them to look for support from Protestant England, rather than Catholic France.

    Mary – no religious fanatic – tried to steer a course between the different factions that sought to dominate her. When not engaged in state business, the queen recreated some of the splendour of the court of France, and in this she was ably assisted by her Marys.

    The four Marys went everywhere with the queen, even accompanying her to parliament in 1563. They had stools in her chamber, when to sit in the presence of the monarch was an extraordinary honour they waited on her at table and they took leading roles in the lavish court entertainments so important to 16th-century monarchy. They danced at masques, played music for visiting ambassadors, rode, hunted and hawked with the queen and her nobles.

    More informally, they joined Mary in dressing up as burgesses’ wives to walk around Edinburgh and St Andrew’s, shopping in the market and cooking, in a faint foreshadowing of another doomed queen, Marie Antoinette. They even donned male costume – on one occasion at a banquet for the French ambassador, as well as for practical reasons when hunting – outraging the sensibilities of the increasingly dominant religious radicals.

    Mary was unfortunate in that her greatest enemy at home was John Knox. Knox, a militant Calvinist, was even more misogynistic than most men of the age, and spent a good deal of time inveighing against female rule in such delightful tomes as “The first blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regiment of women”, and haranguing Mary in both public and private. Knox made the most of every innocent pastime derived from youth and high spirits at the queen’s court to insinuate that the queen and her entourage, including the Marys, lived immoral lives.

    Pressure mounted for the queen to remarry – there were many at home and abroad who had their eyes on the crown – and even Mary’s person. In a frightening incident a foolish young poet, Chastelard, was found hiding under the royal bed. Mary, too nervous to sleep alone thereafter, took Fleming as her ‘bedfellow’. The queen’s affection for her Marys was one argument used to persuade her to take a husband, as they had all vowed to remain single while she did. Mary did remarry in July 1565, but life for all of the Marys would probably have been better had she stayed a widow – the marriage to Lord Darnley [who she wed in 1565] proved disastrous.

    The Marys in love

    Whatever the Marys’ earlier matrimonial intentions, the first of them, Livingston, was married in March 1565 to John Sempill, son of Robert, Lord Sempill. Knox, who had referred to Livingston as “lusty”, suggested the match was rushed – Livingston and Sempill, who was a noted dancer, had been tripping the light fantastic with gusto and from this, Knox inferred that she was pregnant. It seems unlikely, as the betrothal took place a year before the wedding and the first of their several children was not born until a year after it.

    The queen attended the elaborate ceremony, and gave them a gift of a bed hung with scarlet and black velvet, with embroidered taffeta curtains and silk fringes, as well as land, drawing Knox’s fire again for granting lands to courtiers. Livingston remained at court as keeper of the queen’s jewels. When Mary made a will in 1566, Livingston drew up a minute inventory of her jewels – specimens of which were bequeathed to the Marys, should the queen die in childbed.

    Beaton, considered the best looking of the four Marys, caught the eye of Thomas Randolph, the English ambassador. Around twice her age, perhaps he hoped that his position would attract her. The queen’s biographer, John Guy, refers to them as lovers, but it seems unlikely that one of the queen’s closest friends would expose Mary to the risks of confidential information leaking out – unless Beaton were acting in concert with Mary, extracting information from Randolph.

    Beaton must have had the reputation of being politically influential with the queen, as she received letters and gifts from the wife of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, one of the other English ambassadors. Beaton was courted by Randolph for some time, but in 1566 married Alexander Ogilvy, by whom she had at least one son. Beaton died in around 1598, and her widower promptly married Lady Jean Gordon, the wife whom James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, had thrown off to marry Queen Mary.

    Livingston was full of spirits and Beaton was the prettiest, but Fleming apparently carried the palm for overall attractiveness. As ‘Queen of the Bean’ at the Twelfth Night ceremonies in 1564, she was dressed in cloth of silver and jewels, and this “flower of the flock’s” dazzling looks attracted poetry and prose panegyrics.

    Fleming was courted in 1564 by William Maitland of Lethington. Maitland had a chequered history in Mary’s service: one of the few nobles who was Protestant by conviction, he had joined the Lords of the Congregation and was a friend of Sir William Cecil, the English secretary of state, whose whole life was dedicated to eliminating Mary.

    Maitland failed to warn Mary of the plot to murder her secretary, David Rizzio, and it is likely, too, that he knew of the plot against Darnley. [Darnley and a group of Protestant nobles stabbed to death Rizzio on 9 March 1566, after they convinced him Rizzio was Mary’s lover. Mary could never forgive Darnley, who was himself murdered on 9 February 1567.]

    Fleming, of course, probably had no idea of the extent of Maitland’s duplicity. Maitland seems to have fallen headlong in love with her, and his passion was the subject of some mockery at court –nearly 20 years older than she was, he was described by one courtier as being as “suitable for her as I am to be pope”.

    Maitland has been identified as a prime suspect for the forger of the casket letters, which triggered accusations that Mary was complicit in Darnley’s murder. [The letters contain eight missives and a series of sonnets said to have been written by Mary, Queen of Scots, to the Earl of Bothwell, between January and April 1567. They were produced as evidence against Queen Mary by the Scottish lords who opposed her rule].

    Whatever his machinations, Maitland later became an adherent of what was known as the Queen’s Party that wished to restore her, if not to full monarchy, at least to regency for her son, James. The Queen’s Party, which included Fleming and Maitland, held Edinburgh Castle in 1573, but when it was captured by the English they were handed over to the Regent, Morton.

    Fleming was freed, struggling to retain her diamond and ruby chain that had been Queen Mary’s, while Maitland, carried out of the castle on a litter, died before he could be brought to trial. Suicide was rumoured. The King’s Party planned to hang, draw and quarter his dead body, but Fleming wrote to Cecil, asking him to intervene. He passed the plea to Elizabeth, who requested the Scottish lords to spare the body.

    Fleming waited until 1583 for Maitland’s lands to be restored. She and Maitland had two children – a son, James, converted to the old faith and fled to France, while their daughter, Margaret, became Countess of Roxburghe.

    The fourth Mary, Seton, never married, but stayed with her mistress for many years. After the surrender at Carberry Hill [Mary surrendered and later went to exile in England following the battle of Carberry Hill, 15 June 1567, which took place near Edinburgh after a number of Scottish lords objected Mary’s rule following her marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, who was widely believed to have murdered her previous husband Lord Darnley], she joined Mary in captivity at Lochleven Castle.

    By standing at a window, dressed in the queen’s clothes, she gave Mary time to slip out of the castle, and escape across the loch in a rowing boat. Later, when Mary fled to even more onerous imprisonment in England, Seton was permitted to join her, and spent 15 years incarcerated in the gloomy series of castles where Mary wore her life away.

    In 1570 Seton’s mother wrote to her, and was apprehended by the King’s Party, who sought to banish her from Scotland for communicating with Mary’s household. Elizabeth intervened, requesting forbearance “if the cause be no greater” than writing to her daughter.

    By 1583, even Seton’s devotion and health were tried by the long imprisonment, and she was given leave to retire to a French convent at Rheims. Seton lived on to see her mistress’s son inherit the crown of England, before dying in 1615. She was buried in the convent she had dwelt in for more than 30 years. Were her last thoughts of the charismatic queen she had served so faithfully, or did it all seem a distant dream?

    “But why should I fear a nameless grave
    When I’ve hopes for eternity….
    There was Mary Seton and Mary Beaton,
    And Mary [Fleming] and me”.

    Melita Thomas is the editor of Tudor Times, a website about daily life in the period. Visit to find out more.

    This article was first published by HistoryExtra in April 2015.

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